Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes was the first test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a United States federal law.
The plaintiffs, 8 movie studios, successfully sought an injunction against the distribution of DeCSS, a program capable of decrypting content protected using the Content Scramble System (a DRM scheme commonly used to protect DVDs.) It was produced and released without a license from DVD CCA, the trade organization responsible for DVD copy protection. DeCSS was released in October 1999 on LiViD, a mailing list focused on producing programming tools and software libraries relevant to DVD use on Linux. The motion picture industry became aware of the existence of DeCSS later that same month and began litigation on a number of fronts.
On January 14, 2000, eight movie studios filed a lawsuit against Eric Corley (publisher of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly Magazine,) Shawn Reimerdes, Roman Kazan and 2600 Enterprises, Inc. The movie studios claimed that all three defendants, by making available DeCSS, were 'trafficking in circumvention devices', an illegal act under the DMCA. The studios sought injunctive relief in the form of a court order preventing the defendants from further publicizing or disseminating the DeCSS program, as well as damages.
In mid-January, shortly after the suit was filed, the Court granted a preliminary injunction barring defendants from posting DeCSS. This action allowed the court to prevent the further dissemination of DeCSS until the court could officially decide the legality of disseminating DeCSS. The court felt this precaution was necessary given that the movie studios supplied a reasonable argument that widespread dissemination of DeCSS would cause irreparable harm to their interests.
After the preliminary injunction was issued, Shawn Reimerdes and Roman Kazan both entered into consent decrees with the plaintiffs and were subsequently dropped from the suit. The consent decree that Shawn Reimerdes entered into barred him both from posting the code for DeCSS and from linking to other sites that did so. Reimerdes was originally sued because he hosted the source code for DeCSS on dvd-copy.com, a personal website. The consent decree that Kazan entered into was similar to Reimerdes'. Kazan was initially sued because he ran an internet hosting service that hosted websites offering DeCSS.
Eric Corley removed DeCSS from 2600.com after the preliminary injunction was issued, but did not reach a settlement agreement. 2600 Enterprises Inc. was also added to the lawsuit after the preliminary injunction was issued. Although Corley removed the source code for DeCSS, in what Corley termed an act of "electronic civil disobedience," 2600.com continued to host links to other websites that hosted the source code for DeCSS. By July 2000, they had compiled links to nearly 500 such sites.
The defendants sought to invalidate the DMCA itself on constitutional and other grounds. After a three day trial, United States District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan issued an 89-page ruling on August 17, 2000 upholding the motion picture industry's position and the constitutionality of the DMCA.
In 2010, years after the close of Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes, the 79 boxes of case files, evidence and materials related to the case were disposed by the EFF and, at the request of Eric Corley, given to Jason Scott. Stored for several additional years, these materials are now being scanned into this collection. Much of the material exists online in other forms, while others are being scanned and made available online.
To browse the Electronic Frontier Foundation's collection of this material, go here. This includes transcripts, documents, and other material included in this archive.